At every turn, Gen. David Petraeus reminds us that “the reality of Iraq is that it is very hard” and that we should be careful not “to be optimistic or pessimistic” about the situation in Iraq. But in clear minded analysis of Iraq must conclude that the situation has improved since Petraeus began his surge. Acknowledgment of the decrease in casualties in Iraq is now admitted by even the war’s fiercest critics, but a common refrain from the anti-war crowd has been that there has been no political progress to match the gains in security. It is still early, but that may be beginning to change as the Iraqi Parliament passed a bill January 12th that allows thousands of low-level Baath Party members back into the government. The measure is one of the ‘benchmarks’ set by Congress to measure success in Iraq.


Despite the security and political progress in Iraq, the leading anti-war candidates are unrepentant in both their opposition to the surge and their desire for a speedy withdrawal of all American combat forces beginning in 2009. As Bill Kristol points out today, claims from these candidates that it was Democratic Party victories in 2006 that spurred reconciliation in Iraq are pure fantasy. The Democrats won on their promise to bring all troops home immediately in November of 2006, but Sunni tribes in Anbar announced their fight against al Qaeda in September 2006. Perhaps Iraqi Sunnis can see the future, or maybe anti-war leaders just prefer to invent any facts necessary to fit their belief that the surge would fail. If anything Congressional timetables for US withdrawal would sabotage reconciliation, not help it.


Worse, the leading anti-war candidates are still promising to drastically reduce combat forces in Iraq regardless of what commanders on the ground like Gen. Petraues would advise. Barack Obama’s website promises: “Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months.” Hillary Clinton’s website claims: “The most important part of Hillary’s plan is the first: to end our military engagement in Iraq’s civil war and immediately start bringing our troops home. … She would direct them to draw up a clear, viable plan to bring our troops home starting with the first 60 days of her Administration.” What neither website acknowledges, is that swiftly removing troops from the country is no easy answer to the hard reality of Iraq.


Quick Hits:



  • General Motors and the United Auto Workers are close to an agreement to offer buyouts and early retirement packages for 5,200 UAW hourly workers. GM wants up to 16,000 hourly UAW workers to leave the company.


  • A 2002 Pentagon war game featuring a coordinated attack by “small, agile speedboats” on US warships may be a reason the US Navy responded swiftly to Iranian patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz last week. In the simulation, swarms of enemy speedboats sank 16 major warships, including an aircraft carrier.


  • Border communities in Texas worry that growing violence between the Mexican army and drug cartels my collide with their growing tourism industry.


  • San Francisco city regulations requiring low income unit construction are driving out the middle class according to the city’s own development think tank.